Democratic lawmaker accused of anti-Semitism
Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar apologized this week after sparking a firestorm of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for suggesting that Israel’s allies in Congress were motivated solely by money. The Somali-American triggered outrage with a tweet in which she said that U.S. lawmakers’ support for the Jewish state is “all about the Benjamins baby,” using slang for $100 bills. When Omar was asked where that cash was coming from, she tweeted “AIPAC!” referring to the pro-Israel lobbying group. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders decried the Minnesota representative’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes”—namely that wealthy Jews use their fortunes to secretly manipulate politicians. Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised to take action to punish Omar for spreading “hatred.”
Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, apologized the following day and thanked “Jewish allies and colleagues” for teaching her about “the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” This is not the first time that Omar, a campaigner for Palestinian rights, has been accused of anti-Semitism. Just weeks earlier, she was forced to make amends for a 2012 tweet in which she said that Israel had “hypnotized” the world.
What the columnists said
Consciously or not, Omar has spouted “a poisonous anti-Semitic narrative,” said Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. The reality is that AIPAC doesn’t need “to pay off conservatives to make them support Israel.” Many American evangelicals support Israel for religious reasons: They believe the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is a precondition for the rapture. Others on the right love Israel because it’s a nationalistic U.S. ally in the Middle East. So “you can’t blame Jewish money” for the GOP’s terrible politics.
The Democrats’ anti-Semitism problem is only going to get worse, said David Harsanyi in TheFederalist.com. Omar is a leading member of the party’s ascendant left, which views Israel as an illegitimate state that routinely murders Palestinian kids “for kicks.” It is possible to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic—millions of Israelis do that every day. But it’s telling that the new Left focuses so much of its anger at the world’s only Jewish nation while shrugging at “things like Muslim concentration camps in China.”
Republicans have some nerve criticizing Democrats, said Zack Beauchamp in Vox.com. Trump peddled anti-Semitic imagery in his campaign, and McCarthy tweeted last year that prominent Jewish Democrats were trying to “buy” the midterms. Still, even if GOP outrage comes in bad faith, Democrats have to crack down on anti-Semitism or risk the fate of Britain’s Labour Party. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who once called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends,” made anti-Semitism mainstream in the party. Now 40 percent of British Jews say they’d leave the country if Labour took power. “If the line isn’t drawn somewhere, the results for Jews—who remain a vulnerable minority—can be devastating.”